Kembara, a new restaurant from acclaimed chef Angelo Sosa, opens in Phoenix. The latest project from Chef Sosa and long-time partner and restaurant developer Mark Stone, Kembara is a reﬂection of both Chef Sosa’s and Stone’s culinary odysseys traveling, cooking, and tasting across the broad continent of Asia throughout their careers, pulling inspiration from Chiang Mai to Hanoi to Tokyo to Penang and beyond, with a fresh interpretation on beloved recipes that simultaneously honors the lineage and legacies of generational dishes. Notable LA-based designer Thomas Schoos (Morimoto in Napa and Mexico City, Margot in Los Angeles, Tía Carmen in Phoenix, and TAO in New York and Las Vegas) has created a modern and eclectic space with a vibrant color palette.
Acclaimed chef Angelo Sosais renowned for his bold cooking rooted in Asian ﬂavors and techniques, bringing over 25 years of experience that has taken him from three-star kitchens in Europe to street food stalls in Thailand. A protege of Jean-Georges Vongerichten, it was under him that Chef Sosa was ﬁrst introduced to cooking with the wide myriad of Asian ﬂavors that would have a major inﬂuence on his career. Chef Sosa has also worked with some of the industry’s most renowned restaurateurs, including Alain Ducasse, Stephen Starr, and Masaharu Morimoto, working at Jean-Georges, Spice Market, Buddakan, Morimoto NYC, and more. He was also a fan favorite on Bravo’s hit show, “Top Chef,” appearing on multiple seasons. Chef Sosa has opened several restaurants of his own, including Xie Xie in NYC, a fast-casual Asian concept that earned him StarChefs’ New York’s Rising Star award for “Best New Restaurant Concept”; the Michelin-recommended Añejo Tequileria y Restaurante in NYC; and Death by Tequila in Encinitas, CA, which was named “Best New Restaurant” by San Diego Magazine.
Joining forces with Chef Sosa is seasoned restaurant developer Mark Stone, with whom he also opened Tía Carmen in 2022 in Phoenix. Stone is also behind projects like Chef John Tesar’s Michelin-starred Knife & Spoon in Orlando and the upcoming Makoto Vail in Colorado. Stone’s career traversed a variety of industries around the world, during which he traveled extensively throughout East Asia, fueling his love for the diversity of Asian cultures and food. He pivoted his career to the restaurant industry in 2004, partnering with “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto, overseeing his business interests for over a decade. After Stone relocated to Southern California in 2016, he reconnected with Chef Sosa, having known each other for many years dating to their time in New York. The two bonded over their shared culinary passions and decided to partner together to pursue several projects, with Kembara being their most personal one to date.
Kembara warmly embraces the rich tapestry of Asian street food culture, exemplifying the tradition of cherishing time-honored recipes and their stories passed down to each generation, while also playfully innovating upon familiar ﬂavors and techniques. The menu is an homage to Chef Sosa and Stone’s
travels across Asia with inspiration drawn from countries including Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and Japan. Each dish is constructed around Chef Sosa’s concept of a “trinity of ﬂavors” — a balance between sweet, sour, and salty elements that culminate in a perfect bite of harmony.
Appetizers include dishes like Tuna hai Jewel, a savory twist on the Thai dessert called tub tim krob with tuna sashimi, turmeric tapioca-dusted jicama, fresh herbs and herb oil, chilled in a lemongrass-ginger broth; ChickenLarbwith galangal, shrimp paste, lemongrass, toasted rice and mint; and Lamb Spring Roll, inspired by Indian lamb samosas and reimagined as a spring roll ﬁlled with ﬂavorful ground lamb with fresh herbs, dusted with curry salt, and served with strained yogurt and green Thai Chili. Among noodles and rice, Chef Sosa interprets the famous northern Thai dish Chicken Khao Soi with a charred curry base and homemade curry powder dusted on top, served with salted mustard greens and nam prik (Thai chili sauce); the Chilled Pho Salad is a contemporary adaptation of Vietnam’s national dish adapted for Arizona’s hot climate with the beef broth concentrated down into a vinaigrette then tossed with rice noodles, skirt steak marinated in ﬁsh sauce, seared bok choy, and garnished with carrots and sprouts; and Crab Fried Rice comes with stir-fried with lump crab, oyster sauce, and sugar snap peas, among others.
For mains, seafood includes Black Pepper Maine Lobster, a riff on a Singaporean dish tossed with copious amounts of black pepper, oyster sauce, and ginger; Banana Leaf Halibut smothered with sambal made with Chile de árbol, Fresno chiles, and Thai chilis; and Fish Head Curry with the head and tail slowly braised in a mixture of spices and coconut milk served on a banana leaf with guests encouraged to eat with their hands. Meat dishes include Wagyu Beef Rendang, a Malaysian comfort food staple braised in chili sambal; and Lemongrass Pork Collar, inspired by Vietnamese grilled porkchop, marinated in lemongrass, garnished with herbs, and dressed lightly with ﬁsh sauce.
Kembara also offers a fully vegetarian menu featuring modiﬁcations to existing dishes on the menu as well as original takes to accommodate dietary restrictions, such as Tofu Larb or the Silken Chili Tofu. The MassamanVegetableCurryoriginates from Thailand but has Persian and Indian inﬂuences at Kembara and comes with Japanese yams, carrots, bamboo shoots, and warming spices.
To round out the meal, desserts include VietnameseCoffeeDonutstossed in a Vietnamese cinnamon and sugar mixture served with Len’s Vietnamese Coffee and condensed milk dipping sauce; Buckwheat Taiyaki with matcha cream and strawberry jam with mustard seeds; and haiIce Tea Shaved Ice with Thai iced tea pound cake, Italian meringue, and pickled blueberries.
The cocktail menu thoughtfully incorporates Asian spirits and ingredients in both familiar ﬂavor proﬁles as well as unexpected ways. Drinks are named after notable Asian and AAPI-centric books in homage to some of the team’s favorite works. Remains of the Day is a martini made with Roku Gin, Bermutto (a Japanese-made vermouth made from sake), housemade dashi brine, and Japanese bitters; heSympathizer with Akashi Whisky, genmaicha tea, and toasted rice syrup, and smoked cherrywood chips served from a teapot; and TalesoftheFloatingWorld, a playful, nostalgic twist on the ﬂavors of an
orange creamsicle made with gin, lemon juice, orange blossom-scented orange syrup, and Calpico garnished with orange mochi. Other unique selections include Wild Swans, which uses baijiu, a clear-grain Chinese spirit; and heGoodEarth, a savory umami-packed drink with vegetable stock, miso broth, pok pok som vinegar, umami tincture, and mezcal garnished with a dried seaweed crisp. Non-alcoholic cocktails include heSound ofWaveswith Assam black tea, mandarin syrup, and hibiscus syrup with tapioca boba; and heNamesake, a twist on a mango lassi made with frozen mango, coconut milk, Greek yogurt, makrut leaf syrup, sea salt, and ground cardamom, among others.
The beverage program also features a sake list highlighting the most important regions, styles, and producers across Japan, curated by renowned wine and sake judge, sake ambassador, and sommelier Eduardo Dingler. He was previously the global beverage director for the Morimoto Group and has worked at some of Napa Valley’s most iconic restaurants in addition to being a proliﬁc wine, sake, and spirits journalist. The list offers sake exclusive to Kembara including Takahiyo 69 Omahi Junmai Nama from Niigata Prefecture and Tsuchida Kimoto from Gunma Prefecture. The list by the glass offers a diverse range from Junmai Daiginjo to aged sake as well as the ancient Doburoku styles sourced from Dingler’s travels around Japan. The wine list showcases global selections to match the intricacies and dynamic ﬂavors of Chef Sosa’s menu. Kembara also boasts the largest collection of Asian spirits in the region as well as one of the largest in the United States, including a rich array of Japanese whiskeys, shochu, baijiu, and spirits from India and Thailand.
Notable LA-based designer Thomas Schoos, whose projects include Morimoto in Napa and Mexico City, Margot in Los Angeles, and Tía Carmen in Phoenix, among others, has created a modern and vibrant space that evokes an energetic vibe inspired by Asia’s night markets. Guests are welcomed with an illuminated moon gate at the entrance leading them through to a grand bar. Colorful whooping crane wallpaper adorns the ceiling and walls in a patchwork pattern complemented by hand-painted murals reminiscent of vintage gra ti in night markets. Hand-blown glass wall scones in ruby red, along with bent neon rope lights suspended from the ceiling, add a moody atmosphere to the space. In the dining room, an open kitchen layout offers glimpses of the team cooking at their woks and grills, infusing the space with energy while guests are seated at long concrete tables with leather pleated banquettes. For more intimate gatherings, two private dining rooms are available, seating up to 16 and 28 people respectively, which can also be merged into one larger space. Kembara also offers seating in their outdoor garden, a tropical oasis of dangling, intertwining rope lights against the dark sky. Colorful umbrellas dot the area, and ﬁre elements and eclectic bamboo settees are paired with larger sharing tables for those seeking an alfresco dining experience.
Kembara is located at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa and marks the ﬁnal phase of an
$80 million resort-wide transformation and cements the resort as a well-rounded destination to relax, dine, and play. The resort is owned by a joint venture among Trinity Investments and institutional investors. The opening of Kembara marks Trinity’s second restaurant partnership with Chef Sosa and
Stone with plans to open two more restaurants at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa in Palm Springs in 2024.